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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Three strikes for Watchaug Pond

Health Department recommends Camp Watchaug closure for the third time this season
By Will Collette

The bacterial count in the water at Camp Watchaug has exceeded safe levels for the third time this season.

Yesterday, it was the YMCA's Camp Fuller in South Kingstown that registered alarm with state health officials.

This summer, we've seen the state seesaw between closures and re-openings at South County swimming areas, salt water as well as fresh.

I would offer this observation: it seems that swimmers are the main variable. 

It seems to me that one remedy would be to offer people who want to swim in areas susceptible to high bacterial counts more portable toilets. And maybe some signs saying something to the effect of "Don't Crap Where You Swim"

This recurring problem also has a tie-in with one of the latest pseudo-issues that's got Charlestown Planning Czar Ruth Platner and the Charlestown Citizens Alliance knickers in a twist.

That's the imagined re-opening of Burlingame's old North Campground. According to DEM, that's not going to happen without consultation with Charlestown and may not happen at all. 

Here is the statement, with a link to DEM's park plan, that the department issued to quell "information that’s been shared recently on social media and in emails." In other words, all the alarmist stuff Platner and the CCA have been spreading.

Here's the DEM statement:

Burlingame - North Camp

This platform triggered alarm bells at the CCA (CCA photo)
Campgrounds play an important role in attracting tourism, providing affordable staycation options for Rhode Island families, and promoting public health.

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is considering many options to modernize and invest in our system of state parks and beaches – which, according to a 2018 study, rank first nationally in visits per acre but 47th in state support per visit.

Contrary to information that’s been shared recently on social media and in emails, however, DEM has not agreed to or undertaken any plan to build new campsites at the North Camp area of Burlingame State Campground, nor has DEM removed trees or cleared land for this purpose.

BA Services Inc. is the vendor that manages Burlingame. BA Services built a temporary, demonstration campsite near the north edge of Watchaug Pond to allow the leaders of DEM’s Division of Parks and Recreation to see a product that we might consider offering to campers in the future.

To access the site, BA cleared brush along the main trail leading from Buckeye Brook Road to the pond. The “demo” campsite consisted of a wooden platform with a canvas tent on top. The demo model was installed only temporarily; BA took it down on June 27.

As we move forward in considering outdoor recreational opportunities in the area, DEM will be sure to reach out to and communicate with the Town of Charlestown along with Burlingame’s neighbors.

Click here to see DEM’s strategic report, which shines a light on the value of RI’s parks, beaches, and campgrounds. Over the years, these facilities have provided countless families with memories and opportunities to breathe fresh air, enjoy nature, and have fun. The report also details how RI must step up and do more to invest in these special places, which do so much for Rhode Islanders and our economy.